J.K. Dobbins Poised For A Breakout Junior Season

Ohio State football J.K. Dobbins

For much of college football history, a 1,000-yard season has been the benchmark for excellence for running backs.

If a back gets enough carries, and does enough with them to hit the four-digit mark, it’s usually an indication that he played well. He hit holes, held onto the ball, and kept the chains moving often enough to stay on the field.

Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins rushed for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018. So how did Dobbins grade his performance?

“It was a failure. Last year was failure to me,” Dobbins said during fall camp.

“Failure” is pretty harsh, but the year was unquestionably a step back from Dobbins’ sensational freshman campaign. His yardage dropped from 1,403 to 1,053, and more troubling, he seemed unable to break long runs like he did as a freshman.

Dobbins and the coaching staff say that he was looking to hit a home run every time he got the ball, something that led to way too many swings-and-misses.

His yards per carry plummeted from an outstanding 7.2 in 2017 to a very pedestrian 4.6 in 2018. During a particularly ugly mid-season stretch, Dobbins averaged 3.4, 3.2, 3.5, and 2.2 yards per rush in four straight games.

That was frustrating, but not a season-killer, thanks to the Buckeyes’ unprecedented success with the passing attack.

Now, as the Buckeyes prepare for life after Dwayne Haskins, they know they’ll need a big bounce-back from Dobbins to keep the chains moving and take pressure off new starter Justin Fields. But Dobbins still can’t try to swing for the fences every time he gets the ball.

“He has to make three-yard runs, five-yard runs, four-yard runs, six-yard runs. Before you know it, you start leaning on teams, come out the back end and the home runs will hit naturally,” Day said.

Dobbins has done everything he can to be ready for that role. He said he cleaned up his diet and hit the weight room hard to drop his body fat percentage from 12 to 8 during the offseason.

Now, he has his sights set on some big achievements.

“My main goal is to win a national championship, of course. I just feel like I’m the best running back in the nation. And I want to prove that,” Dobbins said.

August is the time of year when everyone is thinking – and talking – big. There are probably players on most FBS campuses across the country with goals like that.

Of course, only one team can win the national championship, and only one running back can be the best in the nation. But there is reason to think Dobbins may be on his way to living up to his lofty goals.

Multiple times this month, Day has mentioned Dobbins’ name first when he was asked about players who have stood out during fall camp.

Thursday, he was asked to give the name of one player who he has seen rise this month and who he was excited to see play on Saturday.

His response: “I’m looking forward to seeing J.K. run. I want to see that. I think his approach and his demeanor after splitting carries with Mike (Weber in 2017 and 2018), we talked about how he was kind of looking for home runs. I want to see him run with his pads down.”

That echoed something he said a little more than a week earlier. A reporter asked, “Is there any recap generally from the scrimmage that you can give, guys who looked good this past weekend?”

The only name Day mentioned?

“I will say on offense I think that J.K. Dobbins has really run hard in this camp. He has his pads down, he’s playing with speed. I think that’s significant.”

How significant? Dobbins will get a chance to answer that question starting on Saturday against Florida Atlantic. He already knows what he’s expecting out of himself.

“More pop, more explosion, more everything you’ll see this year,” he said.

5 Responses

  1. Rb recruiting is just fine we. Dobbins was a top 5 ap back so was McCall, Weber was top 10 back, last year master was top 15 back and Snead was top 5, then this year we have two promising young backs even if we miss on next year one should redshirt so we’re fine

  2. Part of the drop off in his production last season is a bad blocking scheme for the type of QB they had. Haskins was much less likely that JT to keep the ball so defenses locked in on the RB. When they handed the ball a little further back from the line of scrimmage, the RBs could have more momentum and can see better and made better cuts. It was stubbornness that hurt them most of the season, but paid off on few keeps by Haskens. Fields will be a much bigger threat running the ball, and consequently, JK will do better. However JK, although can make cuts, lacks natural explosiveness and top end speed. RB recruiting has not been where it should be. I expect a good year, not great year from this position. If Fields can become a very good passer, that will help everything. If not, they will drop a few games, as I think the defensive struggles will continue for a while.

  3. I’ve written this before, Tom, and I think you should address it at some point: the 1,000 yard ‘plateau’ (as it used to be called) was a lot harder when teams played 50% fewer games in the regular season. The NCAA began allowing 11 game seasons in 1970 but the Buckeyes didn’t play one until 1974. Conference “championship” games didn’t come into vogue until the mid 90s. It’s now possible for 2 teams to play 15 games in a collegiate season, the top-tier of every conference playing 13, and the rest 12. 1,000 yards just doesn’t stack up when a player can miss 2 – 5 games ENTIRELY and still make the 1,000 yard plateau just by averaging as well as the top backs pre-1970. 1k yards has been kept as the…yardstick!…solely because it’s a nice round number that everyone likes. But the true measure should be 1,200 yards (if we assume 10 games) or even higher if we assume 9, which was the norm until the late ’60s (the Buckeyes played a 9-game regular season through 1969, beginning with 10 in ’70 – ’73). I like round numbers too so it should be 1,200 yards (to give backs on bad teams a chance as well), and with the understanding that some backs on very good to great teams will make it because 3 extra games is quite a lot!

    1. *if we assume 12 games, not 10 as I wrote above!

Comments are closed.